Disgraced former senior Chinese leader Bo Xilai is refusing to co-operate with a government investigation and has staged hunger strikes in protest. At one point, he was treated in hospital.
Almost a year after Bo’s fall from grace under a cloud of lurid accusations about corruption, abuse of power and murder, the government has given no definitive timeframe for when he will face court, and has not announced formal charges.
Bo was forced from his post as Communist Party chief in the south-western city of Chongqing last year following his wife’s murder of British businessman Neil Heywood.
Before that, Bo, 63, had been widely tipped to be promoted to the party’s inner elite.
His downfall came after his estranged police chief, Wang Lijun, fled briefly to a US consulate last February and accused Bo’s wife, Gu Kailai, of poisoning Mr Heywood.
Gu and Wang have both since been convicted and jailed.
No criminal charges against Bo have been revealed but the ruling Communist Party has accused him in statements carried by the official Xinhua news agency of corruption and of bending the law to hush up Mr Heywood’s killing.
Two independent sources with ties to the family said Bo’s trial was likely to be delayed until after an annual full session of parliament and its top advisory body in March because he was not physically fit.
“He was on hunger strike twice and force fed,” one source said, requesting anonymity due to the sensitivity of the case. It was unclear how long the hunger strike lasted.
“He was not tortured, but fell ill and was taken to a hospital in Beijing for treatment,” the source said, declining to provide details of Bo’s condition and whereabouts.
The stability-obsessed ruling party is determined to prevent anything, including Bo’s trial, from disrupting the final steps of vice-president Xi Jinping’s ascent to becoming China’s top leader.
Mr Xi, who assumed leadership of the party and military in November, will take over from Hu Jintao as state president during the annual session of parliament, beginning on 5 March.
Amid public anger about officials’ behaviour, Mr Xi has made fighting corruption one of his main themes, saying that nobody, no matter how senior, is above the law.
He has said that the party’s survival is at stake if the issue is not tackled.
A second source confirmed that Bo had been on a hunger strike and also said he had refused to shave to protest against what he saw as his unfair treatment.
“His beard is long, chest-length,” the source said.
“He refused to co-operate,” the source added. “He wouldn’t answer questions and slammed his fist on a table and told them they were not qualified to question him and to go away.”
Bo’s is the most sensational case of elite political turmoil in China since the fall of the “Gang of Four” after Mao Zedong’s death in 1976, and has transfixed the Chinese public, unused as they are to having party scandals aired in public.